John 5.16-30 — Jesus claims to be God

People just don’t get it. No matter what happens, they just can’t be turned away from the idea that what God wants is religious behavior and good works. It’s not what God wants. He wants to find you, heal your soul, and adopt you as his child.

This section starts out with the people being upset because Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath day. Whatever. People think what they want to think, believe what they want to believe, and see what they want to see. Jesus answers them.

“My Father is always at work. He doesn’t take breaks on certain days to do what He does. God doesn’t shut down for the weekend, and neither do I.” (In saying this Jesus put himself on par with God.) Notice the next verse. People claim that Jesus never claimed to be God. Read verses 17 & 18. “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” He claimed a peculiar relation to the Father (“My” Father, not “our” father); that the Father is distinguishable from himself; that his activity and God’s activity were the same thing.

The people were as angry as hornets because he was setting himself on the same plane as God (v. 18). Did Jesus say, “Hey, wait guys, you misunderstood. That’s not at all what I was saying!” Not in the least. There was nothing to clarify. It was true that he was making himself distinct from God, but the same as God (just what John 1.1-2 say). All through the previous chapters people are recognizing and declaring (giving testimony) that Jesus is God. Here Jesus affirms it himself. You think they’re angry about the Sabbath healing? Jesus just made that quite a bit worse by claiming equality with God. But hey, if this was a misunderstanding that Jesus didn’t intend, the situation is wide open and easy for him to take it back and clear it up. This is precisely what he does NOT do. As a matter of fact, he keeps going.

“The Father and I track together as one all the time. His actions are my actions; his ways are my ways; his thoughts are my thoughts.” Jesus isn’t just claiming to be a prophet or a good guy or a great teacher. He’s claiming sameness. It’s as if the Son was the protagonist in a book the Father was writing. Any action the Father takes must occur through his Son, who is his incarnation in the book. Also, any action the Son takes is genuinely an action of the Father who is doing the “writing.” The two persons are distinct, but one and the same. This has to make his critics even more angry. But Jesus doesn’t stop there.

“Yeah, it goes deeper than this. You’re still just skimming the surface (5.20) in your understanding. Do you want to talk about resurrection, that I will rise from the dead, and then use my authority to give others new life. Am I losing you? The Father and I not only track together, but we trade off duties with each other. You have been taught that you’ll stand before God on the Day of Judgment, and that’s still true. You’ll stand in front of me.”

Then in verse 23 Jesus claims the same right to worship from men that the Father has. (He makes the same point in Lk. 10.16.) Isa. 42.8 says that God doesn’t share honor with anyone, so Jesus is claiming to be God. Can you see that he is not denying the accusation of v. 18, but just keeps plunging deeper? “Here’s the real deal,” he continues in v. 24. “If you want God, come to me. If you want eternal life, come to me. If you want to escape judgment, come to me. My person and my power are what make it all happen. Let’s go deeper: the Father is self-existent. He not only has life, He is life. Yeah, me too. And I’m the one with the authority to call forth the end of time and the judgment of all people. Those who have my nature in them will have eternal life, and those who have the nature of sin in them will be condemned to eternity in their own sin.”

“But let’s not forget what this is all about: I have come to do the Father’s will, and to seek and to save those who are lost, to invite all people to God, and to show them the way.” Jesus isn’t done his speech yet, but enough for now.

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